A Gentlemen’s Guide to Dressing with an Ostomy: Part 1
Finding a sense of normalcy after ostomy surgery can be challenging, to say the least. With so many changes taking place, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and upset by what you’ve been through. It will certainly take some time to adjust, but when you do start feeling better, one way to begin regaining your sense of self is to start dressing like yourself again. At first, the thought of dressing in normal clothes and leaving the house may fill you with a sense of dread and unease, brought on by the thought that people may notice your bag. This fear is common, even expected, after getting an ostomy. The good news is, there are many tips and tricks that can be used to successfully conceal and disguise an ostomy bag!
Set the Foundation
The first layer of clothing, the underwear and ostomy accessories, sets the foundation for the rest of the outfit. This first layer is so important because it is what smooths and secures the ostomy against the body, allowing clothes to fit comfortably without causing a noticeable bulge. With the right underwear and undergarment ostomy accessories, you can secure and conceal your bag in a way that is comfortable, discreet and unnoticeable.
The first thing to consider is what type of underwear works best for you. You may find that your regular undies work fine, and no changes need to be made. On the other hand, you may consider trying ostomy underwear, which is created with male ostomates in mind. They even come complete with a pocket to hold your bag. Ostomy underwear can be found by performing a simple google search. At the very least, when choosing underwear, opt for a pair that sits higher than your stoma.
Accessories to Conceal an Ostomy
A common problem facing many male ostomates is the placement of the stoma. For many, the stoma is located directly on or close to the belt line, making it difficult to wear “normal pants” (AKA anything other than sweats) without either compromising dignity by wearing the pants extremely low or by pulling them up over the stoma and risk looking like Urkel. Luckily, there are ostomy accessories that can be worn to prevent this dilemma from happening.
One way to minimize this issue is to wear an ostomy belt, which allows you to wear pants at your usual waistline. An ostomy belt is worn around the waist, with the bag placed horizontally within the belt. Many find this beneficial because, even if the bag is full, it is much less noticeable because the output is more evenly dispersed. There are a few different options for ostomy belts, which can be easily found online. Most ostomy belts are custom made to order based on your stoma location and waist size. The general consensus is that even though they can be little expensive, they’re worth the investment because they are worn nearly every day and last a lifetime. Not only that, but they are durable, adjustable, and versatile since they can be worn to the gym, work, sleep, etc.
If you don’t like the idea of wearing your bag horizontally, ostomy wraps are a great alternative to the ostomy belt. Worn around the waist, wraps are made with a front pocket to hold the bag. They work to firmly hold the bag against the body and are effective in slimming and concealing a bag. Unlike the belt, wraps are made for bags to be worn vertically. There are a few different websites that sell various types of ostomy wraps. An alternative to an ostomy wrap is to wear a maternity wrap or belly band, which can be found at your local Walmart or Target. I know they’re typically used by pregnant women, but don’t knock it till ya try it! Belly bands are simply a generic and less expensive version of an ostomy wrap, but without the pocket, and they work great to secure an ostomy.
In addition to ostomy wraps and belts, a stoma guard/shield is another great option that can be used to protect and secure an ostomy. Made from a plastic cover, a stoma guard is worn like a protective cup over the stoma. It can be worn in conjunction with an ostomy belt or wrap. A stoma guard is a great accessory to use when wearing jeans or dress pants, especially if your stoma is on or near the belt line, as it prevents pants and belts from putting too much pressure directly on the stoma. It also helps prevent pants from cutting off the flow of output, which could cause a leak. Stoma guards/shields are also great to wear in the car to protect the stoma from the seatbelt and during physical activity, like playing sports, to protect against injury. Even though stoma guards can seem a little bulky at first, they are actually hardly noticeable when wearing clothes.
It is common to feel insecure and self-conscious about your stoma and worry that no matter what you do or wear your bag will be noticeable. This is not the case! Most of the time, your bag is way more obvious in your own mind than it is to everyone else. Even though most people are not looking at your ostomy anyway, using these tips to set a secure, slimming foundation will help calm your nerves and boost your confidence knowing that everything is concealed.
Be sure to check out Part 2!